Never-Never Land

courtesy The Ace Hotel

The pressing question driving my sojourn to the Ace—a supremely stylish yet affordable resort—is this: How do you create a spa for the young—one that’s not too expensive, not too fussy, and hits all the right cultural notes? Entering the Relaxation Room, I start to uncover the answer: White and boxy, the facility is cleverly (and simply) made over to feel like a Bedouin camp, with primitive wall hangings, mellow lighting seeping from organically shaped wood lamps, Moroccan-style throw pillows, an animal skin rug and modern furniture featuring clean, classic lines. The aroma of orange-infused iced water fills the cool space, as does Feel Good’s unique soundtrack, currently featuring Nirvana and Nusrat Ali Khan, floating through state-of-the-art speakers.

My therapist, Lita, appears in a pair of scrubs and a fitted T-shirt, and leads me through the pool area and up a flight of stairs to my treatment room. (The original Howard Johnson Resort, built in 1965, didn’t have a spa—no big surprise there—so The Feel Good Spa was cleverly carved out of several adjacent motel rooms. This results in a spontaneous vibe for guests, as if they were crashing a best friend’s motel room with a basketful of beauty masks and nail polish.)

For shade, The Ace has constructed poolside Mongolian yurts, plein-air retreats that reproduce the sensation of blissing out in a commune. My indoor treatment room strikes the same note, via simple, mid-century design and a hip, oversized “God’s eye.” There’s no artificial lighting—only the glow of the hot day seeping in through drawn curtains. And as is the case throughout the property, music sets the mood. “Our playlists combine Eastern instrumental with ambient and vocal mellow tones with some rhythmic upbeat tracks,” explains spa director Amanda D’Anna. “But if guests have something on their iPod that they prefer, that’s totally cool, too.”

I’m here for the Good Body Scrub (60 min./$115), during which my skin is polished with a purifying mineral salt, then treated to a cool, creamy tonic made from chamomile tea. I get to choose a Body Deli essential oil: either Moroccan Mint (a blend extracted from peppermint, rosemary and spearmint) or Desert Sage (concocted from local sage, fir and juniper). As I sniff the oils in Lita’s palms, both transport me to fragrant local dunes, and I eventually settle on the mint. Throughout the scrub, Lita also treats me to a soothing massage. Afterward, I’ve opted for a 30-minute Reflexology add-on ($55), during which Lita manipulates nerve centers on my feet, sending energy to corresponding organs throughout my body and freeing blocked energy.